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Workplace Safety

Dealing with Chemical Hazards in the Workplace

By October 4, 2014No Comments

If you want to find dangerous chemicals in the workplace, you either need to read obscure technical journals with language and jargon that is impossible for lay people to understand. Your other option is to look at the Manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that under the Occupational Health and Safety Administration rules and regulations every employer keeps for hazardous chemicals. Here too, the information is usually in highly technical language, inaccurate and incomplete. Hazards for long-term effects such as reproductive system damage, cancer and other injuries or illnesses are usually lacking from the MSDS.

While having every chemical’s MSDS on hand complies with the letter of the law, out of date or inaccurate data is often worse than no information.

Getting the valuable information needed by employees about the substances they come into contact with shows them that your business has concerns for their health and safety. Here are some tips on how to find out which materials are hazardous and what to do if an employee has dangerous exposure.

Starting with the MSDS sheets that manufacturers supply under OSHA find the hazardous materials your employees have exposure to.

Review and evaluate scientific literature to understand the possible implications of toxic chemicals on employee’s and your own health.

If the task is beyond your or your employees’ abilities, contact your vendors and tell them the MSDS has insufficient information. You want them or the manufacturer to give you clear, easy to understand information about the hazards of immediate and long-term exposure as well as preventive measures to take.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services runs the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. On their website is a section called ToxFAQs that has a lot of information on hazardous materials. It is free and available in both document and PDF form. Every substance in their directory has a summary that is a quick and easy guide. It is available in both English and Spanish and is a wonderful information source.